For all the talk of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA/TPP, there’s another much bigger threat to “the Internet as we know it.” It’s a bunch of countries who are seeking to use the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to create a top-down regulatory scheme for the Internet.
# ITU has made persistent attempts to take over many of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and the ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) functions; its game plan is to charm a few countries into a design that would result in Governments handing over all Internet functions to the Telecom Business Union.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell’s opinion in the Wall Street Journal The UN Threat to Internet, summarizes the developments.
- Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
- Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for “international” Internet traffic, perhaps even on a “per-click” basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
- Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as “peering.”
- Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
- Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
- Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices.
Again this attempt … is to give certain governments much more control over how the Internet is used… and not in a good way. The Internet thrives today in large part because it’s not controlled by governments, no matter how much they’ve slowly tried to encroach (and the US is particularly guilty of that lately).
The fact that this effort is mainly being led by Russia and China should give you a sense of the intentions here. Neither country is particularly well-known for supporting the principles of open communications or freedom of speech.
As part of this conversation, we should underscore the tremendous benefits that the Internet has yielded for the developing world through the multi-stakeholder model.
Altering this model with a new regulatory treaty is likely to partition the Internet as some countries would inevitably choose to opt out. A balkanized Internet would be devastating to global free trade and national sovereignty. It would impair Internet growth most severely in the developing world, but also globally as technologists are forced to seek bureaucratic permission to innovate and invest. This would also undermine the proliferation of new cross-border technologies, such as cloud computing.
A top-down, centralized, international regulatory overlay is antithetical to the architecture of the Net, which is a global network of networks without borders. No government, let alone an intergovernmental body, can make engineering and economic decisions in lightning-fast Internet time. Productivity, rising living standards and the spread of freedom everywhere, but especially in the developing world, would grind to a halt as engineering and business decisions become politically paralyzed within a global regulatory body.
Any attempts to expand intergovernmental powers over the Internet—no matter how incremental or seemingly innocuous—should be turned back. Modernization and reform can be constructive, but not if the end result is a new global bureaucracy that departs from the multi-stakeholder model.
(This is a TechDirt report from PayAttention Department, quoting Robert MacDowell’s opinion on the Wall Street Journal . Mostly excerpts with some edits for the readers of this blog; Comments are not to be taken as endorsed by Internet Society India Chennai – Sivasubramanian M)